Lakers: BMOC's of many a campus
With a plane bound for Portland to catch, there weren't many players available after practice, nor
did anybody stick around very long. The perfect fit for a practice with little to note, save Shannon Brown throwing down a Derek Fisher alley oop I initially thought would sail the backboard. As we've noted before, this kid has some hops.
Tomorrow's contest in the Rose Garden was described by Kobe Bryant as a "good test," given how well Portland has played at home traditionally and this season (25-5), much less against the Lakers throughout the years. They haven't won in Portland since 2005. "It's a good game to start off this road trip," nodded Kobe. "An environment where they play extremely well and we seem to play poorly. It's gonna be fun."
Why exactly do the Lakers tend to struggle in that particular arena? Phil Jackson doesn't know, nor does he really want to get into it. "I don't want to talk about that. It's been belabored too many years now. It happened before I even started here. Mark it down to rainy weather. Depressing faces."
Hopefully, however, the Lakers head to the Northwest with a unique ace in the hole, their popularity around the country. Even in a city with a storied and loyal roundball base, it's not unusual to see fans blazing a purple and gold jersey or ready to cheer Kobe as the league's most valuable. What goes through Kobe's mind when he hears that noise? "Represent. We're gonna give them something to cheer about." And should the cards get played right, the Lakers could also use turn that energy against their hosts. "I think we use it to our advantage, in terms of it being frustrating for the home crowd or the home team. We try to capitalize on that momentum and try to demoralize them."
Is it ever weird seeing so many fans rooting them on outside the confines of Staples? Not if you're schooled in Pro Hoops 101. "If you understand the tradition of the NBA and basketball, the Lakers are one of the most popular teams in the world," explained Lamar Odom. "And when we're playing well, and we have the best player in the world, I'm not surprised at all. We try to get at teams early, so we can hear them chant "MVP" or "Let's go lakers!" I asked PJ if this phenomenon was strictly a Lakers thing, or if the world was similar for him while coaching the Bulls at the peak of their popularity and prowess. Yep, although realizing its true origins was a wake up call of sorts. "I always thought it was about me, you know how people are," smiled Jackson, tongue firmly in cheek. "They always think it's about them. Then I understood that Michael Jordan and the Bulls were an exciting team. People liked to watch."
A few other quick notes
- Kobe's mouth is feeling better, but "still kind of sensitive." He doesn't need to wear the splint anymore, nor does he plan to wear a mouth guard. "I hate them."
- Should the Lakers come up short in the quest for best overall record, Kobe doesn't see it affecting them too much. "I don't think home court is as big a deal to us as it is to them in the Eastern Conference. Each team just seems to win on their own court. For us, having the best record is more of the challenge of having the best record. Just to get it. We believe we can win anywhere, anytime. It's not that big a deal in that sense."
- After going 0-4 from the stripe on Friday against Minnesota, LO came in early and practiced a few freebies. Emphasis on "few." Enough to regain a rhythm, but not enough to overthink the issue and potentially make it worse. "I didn't really take too much. I'm not gonna make it a big deal. I just said, 'I'm gonna knock 'em down. Ten in a row.' That's what you do, then get in the weight room." But don't mistake the short session as indifference. LO was determined on regaining his stroke upon seeing things get so haywire. "They weren't close," said LO while shaking his head. "There were almost two airballs. That won't happen again."
- Sun Yue is not likely to accompany the team on the roadie, save an injury situation. Instead, he'll stick around to get more run with the D-Fenders. Saturday's game against the Arsenal saw a much better shooting performance than the previous day's.